This article is part of the series, The Joy of Being Queer and Christian; new articles will be added throughout the month of June.
Speech is a powerful act. We encounter speech early in scripture when God creates the cosmos. Speech makes life possible; speech declares and bestows, categorizes and separates. In many cases, an act of speech is a declaration of truth, be it personal or universal.
Speech opens a door to previously unknown experiences. In a way, speech — or language — makes and unmakes the world as we know it. When I speak about myself, I tell you the truth of who I am.
So, in an era where people of faith, specifically Christians, are popularizing anti-trans language, it feels like my responsibility to say something — anything — to lift up those of us who identify as transgender and Christian. The truth I want to communicate here is this: God made me to be trans.
I haven’t always felt this way. For a long time, I felt like a walking mistake. The truth of my conception is that it was accidental. The truth of my birth and early life is fraught with hardship. Life hasn’t been easy. Growing up Black and queer in Vacaville, Calif., is not an experience I would wish on anyone. Yet this experience is what gave me the strength to stand up for myself, to stand confidently in my faith, and to love my community. From a young age, I learned that I needed to stand firmly in who I was to avoid being swept up in the fervor of “the moment.” In Vacaville in the ’90s and early 2000s, the moment was biblical fundamentalism and the rise of megachurches.
I had always been interested in religion, and something about Christianity spoke to my soul. The first time I remember walking into a church felt right and good. My bones felt at home and my spirit sang. I loved church so much that I sought it out on my own. My mother didn’t raise my brother and me to be religious; she encouraged us to find our own spiritual paths and mine led me to church on Sunday with whatever friend would take me. For a while, I made a home in a Missionary Baptist church where I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior. I only stopped attending because it was near the outskirts of town and difficult to get to as a child with no access to a car.
As I got older and more confident in navigating public transportation alone, I went to youth group with friends and landed in a growing church plant. It was where the cool kids went. These were the kids who played guitar in the youth worship band and rode skateboards in the parking lot before adults corralled us inside for the evening’s lesson. I wanted to belong, but I didn’t. The questions I had were too taboo, and I was too curious to accept “give it to God” as an answer.
After a time, it became clear that I was too different to stay. I would either need to deny who I was or leave, so I left. I thought that if God knew who I was before I was born yet expected me to deny that truth, then God was cruel. “If that’s who God is,” I thought to myself, “I want no part of it.” And yet, I did want to be part of it. My soul would cry out in the silence of my bedroom at night, waiting for the loving embrace of God to come find me like it had when I was a child. I craved that love. I needed that love. Here’s the thing: That love never left me.
But somewhere in my adolescence, I bought into the belief that my queerness was inherently sinful, just as my ancestors were told that their Blackness made them inherently sinful. I swallowed these beliefs and molded my entire personality around opposing them. I wanted to be the pebble in their sneakers. I made myself the edgy contrarian who didn’t care about what anyone else thought. To be honest with myself, the edginess was a front. Deep down, I cared so much that I shut everything and everyone out for fear of being hurt.
I came back to God in 2008 as I began revisiting questions I still had about gender and sexuality, which friends and mentors encouraged me to explore. In those questions, I found a love greater than anything I could have ever imagined.
God is too large to be contained by human language, gender binaries, or even a single person’s experience. Even if we took the sum of every person’s experience and blanketed the cosmos with the truth of human existence from the beginning until now, it would only reveal a sliver of who God is. God is all — past, present, and future. God knew who I was from the beginning and championed my return to faith as I returned to myself.
God made me to be a transgender man. I inhabit the “and” between the distinction declared in Genesis 1: God created them male and female (v. 27). I see the world in ways that people who have only ever lived in one gender can’t. I see how ambiguous language in policies could affect whole populations. I see how laws are used to exclude people in the name of “public safety.” I see how word choices can either perpetuate or halt prejudice. This existence empowers me to speak boldly alongside my gender-expansive siblings, using words to help build God’s kin-dom on Earth.
People like me exist to help complete the ever-changing picture of humanity. We’ve always existed, and we will continue to exist throughout human history. This existence is a gift.